Friday, June 12, 2009

Today’s Video: “It’s a love song…”

This week’s look at upcoming free concerts in New York ends tonight. In the past four days, we’ve highlighted music from Los Amigos Invisibles, Chicha Libre, Curumin, and Alex Cuba. We’re taking a different turn tonight by quickly highlighting two great Latino comics.

Pablo Francisco and Gabriel Iglesias will both be performing in Central Park next Friday evening. Both these comedians have been frequently on Comedy Central and have also had their own specials. Iglesias sometimes uses self-deprecating humor to poke fun at his obesity (e.g. the five levels of fatness) while Francisco is best-known for his impressions and wide-ranging voices.

Here is a brief, somewhat NSFW clip Francisco joking about Mexican (norteño?) music:

Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, YouTube, Official websites of Pablo Francisco and Gabriel Iglesias

Solidarity protests held throughout Peru

Numerous marches in unity with protesting indigenous communities were held throughout Peru yesterday.

An estimated 20,000 people rallied in the streets of Lima calling on President Alan Garcia and the government to permanently revoke a series of controversial land-use edicts in the Amazon. "The jungle isn't for sale," chanted some marchers who also accused the government of covering up what really occurred in a series of violent confrontations last weekend between police officers and protesters in northern Peru.

Though most of yesterday’s nationwide protests were peaceful, Lima police launched tear gas at some marchers who threw stones and Molotov cocktails at the Congress building.

The country’s legislature voted on Wednesday to temporarily lift the presidential decrees yet there’s still plenty of tension in the Peruvian Amazon. While indigenous groups worry that they will lose their lands in the name of energy exploration and development, the impoverished region’s economy has been virtually paralyzed:

Online Sources- YouTube, New York Times, AP, Los Angeles Times

Editor's Story of the Argentine Dirty War

The Associated Press has an article today about the book Dirty Secrets, Dirty War: The Exile of Robert J. Cox by CNN web producer David Cox.

The book tells the story of Robert Cox, who was the editor of the Buenos Aires Herald during the dirty war in Argentina. The Herald was one of the early papers to report about the junta's growing repression. "They warned him and tried to keep him in bounds, but he would publish lists of those who disappeared," recalled F. Allen "Tex" Harris, a U.S. diplomat in Argentina at the time.

Cox was sent to prison for a day after writing editorials about what was going on in the country. After his release, he received several death threats. In 1979, Cox fled Argentina with his family.

"This is the book that I could not write," the elder Cox, 75, says in the foreword. "I still find it too painful to relive those malevolent times by writing about them."

Online sources: AP

Ecuador Buys Back 91% of its Debt

Ecuador bought back 91 percent of its defaulted bonds this week, Reuters reported. It also promised to take action against other "illegal debt". Ecuador is now one of the first countries to get away with defaulting on its debt even though it has the means to pay it back.

“These debts were imposed by force,” President Rafael Correa said after the government disclosed the buyback results. “We have rebelled against the system that established odious, unfair, illegal, immoral debts.” He believes that Ecuador should not be responsible for paying back debt incurred by previous corrupt governments.

The debt purchase comes as President Obama is attempting to repair the strained relations between the United States and Ecuador. Obama called President Correa on Wednesday to congratulate him on his April re-election, as well as to applaud the Ecuadorian people's commitment to democracy. "The president stated his desire to deepen our bilateral relationship and to maintain an ongoing dialogue that can ensure a productive relationship based on mutual respect," the White House said on Thursday.

Image: BBC
Online sources: Reuters, Bloomberg

Palau and Bermuda accept Gitmo inmates. Why?

Numerous nations have been reluctant to take in Guantanamo detainees, Palau and Bermuda decided to accept seventeen and four Chinese Muslim Ulghers, respectively. Yet Bermuda’s move has caused plenty of controversy in the land of its current colonizer- Great Britain- and the decision could be overturned.

According to Bermudan Premier Dr. Ewart F. Brown, “I can say on behalf of the Government, we are confident this decision is the right one from a humanitarian perspective.” Yet as Annie Lowrey of the Foreign Policy Passport blog noted, odds are that the real reason for accepting the repatriation can be simplified to one word: money.
So, why Palau and Bermuda? The countries have more in common than warm sands and clear water and tiny populations. They're very friendly with the United States for economic reasons.

The U.S. government has military bases on Palau, and has given its government hundreds of millions in aid and financing. (Palau, which was a protectorate until 1994, actually uses the U.S. dollar as its currency.) Bermuda's economy depends on the United States in no small part as well; a large proportion of Bermuda's tourists come from the U.S., and Bermuda is a staple off-shore tax haven for U.S. financial firms.
Image- AFP (“Chinese Uighur detainees talk to reporters at Camp Iguana in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.”)
Online Sources- AFP, Foreign Policy Passport, ABC News, PRESS TV, BBC News

Daily Headlines: June 12, 2009

* Guatemala: A sign of the faltering global economy – remittances to Guatemala in the first five months of this year fell by 9.5% compared to the same period in 2008.

* Spain: Charges are expected to be filed against the owners of a Valencia bakery who negligently threw out the arm of a Bolivian laborer after it was severed on the job.

* Colombia: Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and several Canadian opposition lawmakers did not see eye-to-eye when Uribe spoke at the House of Commons in Ottawa yesterday.

* Chile: Two former generals were sentenced to three years in jail for illegally selling weapons to Croatia in the 1990s.

Image- Reuters (“People walk outside a Western Union branch in New York March 28, 2009.”)
Online Sources- AP, BBC News, LAHT, Canadian Press

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Today’s Video: Viva (Alex) Cuba!

This week’s look at upcoming free concerts in New York continues with a quick word on Alex Cuba.

The Cuban-Canadian artist has received several Juno Awards for his delightful blend of Latin jazz, rock, and funk. He will be performing at Madison Square Park on the 24th of this month though he will also be touring North America this summer.

Al Jazeera English highlighted Cuba last year; take a look as he explains his musical inspiration as a child:

  • Wednesday – Curumin, Juana Molina, and El G
  • Tuesday - Chicha Libre
  • Monday - Los Amigos Invisibles and Aterciopelados
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, YouTube,

Notable Quotable: Trashcan of the Americas?!

More than ever before, Miami continues to be the great continental trash can for all the defeated oligarchies.
---A scathing op/ed piece in the Cuban state-run daily Granma aimed at who they consider as the “strong nucleus of right extremists from various Latin American countries” that call Miami home.

The article centered on the lack of extradition from the U.S. of Luis Posada Carriles- a former CIA operative wanted by Venezuela and Cuba for alleged terrorist activities. According to the piece, Posada is part of a massive conspiracy centered in Miami that is targeting the Venezuelan and Cuban governments.

Posada currently stands on trial facing immigration fraud and perjury charges relating to his accused lying to an immigration judge over his previous activities. His defense team argued for a delay and that request was granted today by a federal justice in El Paso who postponed trial until February 2010.

Image- South Florida Sun-Sentinel (2007 file photo of Luis Posada Carriles)
Online Sources- Granma International, UPI, AP

Tunnel found below U.S.-Mexico border

U.S. Border Patrol agents uncovered an 83-mile long tunnel beneath the U.S.-Mexico border that was allegedly used by drug smugglers.

The uncompleted tunnel- which was discovered last week- impressed agents since the chamber was no mere hole in the ground:
"This is one of the most elaborate tunnels I've seen," Border Patrol agent Michael Scioli said.

Measuring 48 feet in the United States and 35 feet in Mexico, the tunnel contains side walls framed with 2-by-4 wooden studs and ceiling construction.

"It's elegant in the sense it has electrical work wired into the Mexico side. It even has a hose for ventilation and lightning," Scioli said.
Authorities were tipped off by a resident of Nogales, Arizona who noticed hearing construction activity inside a building. Since last October, police have found fifteen other tunnels in the Nogales area alone.

Image- Arizona Daily Star
Online Sources- Arizona Daily Star, CNN, Houston Chronicle

(Belated) Miercoles Musical: Light and lovely

Sorry for not posting this on Wednesday as I was supposed to. Either way, I hope you enjoy this lovely song from Federico Aubele's recently released album:

Online Source - YouTube

US cancels remaining MCC funds to Nicaragua

Updating an ongoing story, the US has announced that it will cut the remaining $60+ million in aid through the Millennium Challenge (MCC) grant to Nicaragua, based on the prior suspension of this aid after the disputed municipal elections this past November.

"Given the lack of meaningful reforms or progress in these areas by the government of Nicaragua, the board has agreed to terminate these projects," said MCC CEO Rodney Bent, yesterday.

Written before the decision was made, a thoughtful CSM article was written by Tim Rogers earlier this week analyzing the politics at play and the Nicaraguan poor who are affected most.

On Tuesday, the International Budget Support Group (GAP) concluded weeks-long discussions with the Ortega government in Nicaragua, agreeing to temporarily continue aid but with no concrete time frames, amounts, or agreed-upon electoral reform measures for the Nicaraguan government to undertake. They claim that the US decision will be highly anticipated but play no direct role in their decisions to continue or halt aid programs to Nicaragua.

As implied in Rogers' piece, the US decision is likely to heighten tension between the rural poor, indigenous groups and the Sandinista government, tension in part already raised by the imbroglio in Peru with and
ongoing in the Miskito region of Nicaragua.

Budget-wise, Nicaragua is in serious trouble. While the Ortega administration continues to flout the necessity of aid from traditional donor countries, the sustainability of Venezuelan aid continues to be questioned and Russian and Iran aid continue to be small fries, by comparison.

Sources: NY Times, AP, La Prensa, Tico Times, CSM, IPS

Cristiano Ronaldo off to Spain in record deal

Cristiano Ronaldo is set to join Real Madrid for a world-record $130 million days after Brazilian Kaka completed his $94 million transfer to the Spanish side.

"At Cristiano's request…United have agreed to give Real Madrid permission to talk to the player” said a statement on Manchester United’s website today. The reigning World Player of the Year could finalize a deal by the end of this month.

Ronaldo had been the subject of transfer talk for quite a while now despite ManU head coach Alex Ferguson grumbling that he would not "sell that mob a virus". Yet the lure of such a big money deal seemed too hard to resist as Real president Florentino Perez is willing to spare no expense to recreate the superstar “Galacticos” squad of years ago.

Ronaldo may not be the only “red devil” to depart Old Trafford; the latest rumors is that Argentine Carlos Tevez will leave for intra-city rivals Manchester City.

Ironically, Ronaldo’s possible replacement may be an Ecuadorian player that Real Madrid has reportedly given up trying to sign:
Manchester United seem to have a clear run if they follow up their informal inquiry about Wigan Athletic's Antonio Valencia with a firm offer, with the player's representatives no longer optimistic about Real Madrid coming in with a bid.
Image- Guardian UK
Online Sources- Guardian UK, The Latin Americanist, BBC Sport,, The Telegraph, The Independent

Daily Headlines: June 11, 2009

* Brazil: The country may be officially in recession but that won’t stop the government from making a $10 billion loan to (not from) the International Monetary Fund.

* Dominican Republic: Dominican cacao farmers are learning the pros and cons of fair trade as cited in the Christian Science Monitor.

* Cuba: Cuba’s ambassador to the U.N. launched heavy attacks against Human Rights Watch calling them a “clown act” paid to act as "mercenaries" for the U.S. government.

* Caribbean: British and Canadian researchers concluded that climate change is to blame for the destruction of Caribbean coral reefs.

Image- (“Partial view of a Petrobras off-shore oil platform in Angra dos Reis, 180 km south of Rio de Janeiro.”)
Online Sources- Christian Science Monitor, AP, BBC News, LAHT, Reuters

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Today’s Video: A triple threat

We continue with our look at this summer’s free concerts in La Gran Manzana with a can't-miss gig in Central Park.

The tenth Latin Alternative Music Conference in July will bring numerous artists to New York and while some are more recognizable than others rest assured that the quality of the music is always superb.

Take the July 8th Central Park Summerstage concert as an example; Argentine songbird Juana Molina is relatively well-known having been covered by the likes of Spin and Rolling Stone. (Shameless plug: us too!) Curumin and El G are definitely not slouches and their music is excellent in their own forms. All in all, the ambient sounds of Molina, the Brazilian funk/rock of Curumin, and the varied combinations from Buenos Aires’ El G combine to form a buffet for the ears and mind.

All gushing aside, here’s "Vem menina" by Curumin:

  • Tuesday - Chicha Libre
  • Monday - Los Amigos Invisibles and Aterciopelados
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, YouTube, Latin Alternative Music Conference, Central Park Summerstage, Spin

Peru to suspend controversial land decrees

Peru’s legislature voted to temporarily suspend two controversial decrees that have been at the crux of conflicts between indigenous protesters and police.

The stop-gap measure by Peru’s Congress halts President Alan Garcia’s decrees over land use in the Amazon region. Today’s 59-49 vote could conceivably be vetoed by Garcia though it would hurt the slim odds of negotiations between the government and protest leaders.

Thousands of indigenous people have protested over Garcia’s orders which they view as an illegal land grab while also ignoring the region’s social needs. Garcia claimed that the U.S.-Peru free trade pact gave him special powers to implement the laws. In the meantime, at least fifty people died over the weekend in clashes between soldiers and demonstrators.

Today’s congressional decision comes as local groups in solidarity with those in the Amazon are planning their own rallies:
The vote also comes on the eve of a strike called by the country's powerful leftist labor umbrella group, the General Confederation of Workers of Peru (CGTP).

Mario Huaman, the CGTP's top leader, said there would be a protest march ending at the presidential palace in Lima to reject "the arrogant, intolerant, overbearing and discriminatory attitude of the government towards the Amazon communities."

Other protest marches, including marches held by indigenous protesters in Amazon cities, are planned in Peru's main cities.
Image- BBC news
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Reuters, AFP, Al Jazeera English, BBC news

Will Monserrate, Espada affect NY gay marriage bill?

On Monday, New York State Senators Hiram Monserrate and Pedro Espada, Jr. defected to the GOP and ousted Democratic control of the chamber. It’s unknown as to how exactly the new Republican control of the NYS Senate will affect several issues like gay marriage.

Espada became the new acting state Senate President as a result of his defection and in the past he has supported the gay marriage initiative. Espada recently said that he would allow the Senate to vote on the gay marriage proposal even though he was unsure if there are sufficient legislators to approve the bill.

Joining Espada on the gay marriage issue is Joe Bruno- the Republican former Senate leader who still has plenty of influence in Albany. "It's time. Now. For the government to back off, let people make their own life decisions...." said Bruno in a sudden about-face from his past views on the issue.

But could the proposal be doomed due to the Senate coup? Espada’s predecessor- Sen. Malcolm Smith- had put the vote on hold citing insufficient support and he has been unwilling to handover the reins to Espada. Both Monserrate and Espada are mired in controversy; the former for awaits trial for supposedly beating-up his girlfriend and the latter for allegedly using a nonprofit health-care as his personal piggy bank. One of the top Latino politicos in the state senate- Rubén Díaz Sr.- is an evangelical preacher who is vehemently against the bill.

In the meantime, the Senate has been literally deadlocked while they continue with their political power struggle. Hopefully they’ll figure something out soon (ha!) and get on with the business of leading the state.

Image- New York Daily News
Online Sources- Towleroad, New York Daily News, AP, NPR, Reuters,, Gothamist

Colombian anti-labor violence up says ITUC

Violence against labor union members in Colombia has increased despite government claims to the contrary according to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

The Colombian government has repeatedly said that the country has become safer for labor activists as part of President Alvaro Uribe’s “democratic security” policies. At an International Labor Organization (ILO) conference this week, Vice Minister for Labor Relations Ana Lucia Noguera boasted that killings of union members dropped by 81% since 2001.

On the other hand, the ITUC claimed that Colombia is "most dangerous place on earth for trade unionists." The ITUC said that of the 76 unionist deaths worldwide in 2008 49 of them were in Colombia. In addition, impunity reigns in most crimes against labor activists in Colombia; the ILO estimates that a whopping 96% of cases go unpunished.

Violence against labor unions is one of the main reasons why Congressional Democrats have held up the free trade agreement between Colombia and the U.S. This topic will surely be discussed when Uribe and U.S. President Barack Obama meet in Washington on June 29th.

Colombia is not the only danger zone in the Americas for unionists according to the ITUC:
The ITUC survey documents assassinations of trade unionists in 10 other countries, including Guatemala, Venezuela and the Philippines.

Guy Ryder, ITUC general secretary, said: “The fact that certain countries, such as Colombia, Guatemala and the Philippines, appear year after year on the death list shows that the authorities are, at best, incapable of ensuring protection and in some cases are complicit with unscrupulous employers in the murders.”
Image-BBC Mundo
Online Sources- Colombia Reports, Plan Colombia and Beyond, Financial Times, Reuters

ETA targeted famed Spanish judge

The infamous Basque separatist group ETA attempted to assassinate crusading Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon.

According to the Spanish press, the group planned to kill Garzon by using poisoned brandy delivered to the judge via a false admirer. The smooth liquor was to be accompanied by a note praising his role in several high profile human rights cases such as the 1998 attempt to extradite ex-Chilean strongman Augusto Pinochet.

The plot was uncovered by police among several shredded documents in the possession of ETA military chief Jurdan Martitegi who was arrested earlier this year.

Garzon aimed his crosshairs in April at several members of the Bush administration for alledgedly permitting torture at the Guantanamo detention center. His desire for justice for the Spanish victims under the dictatorship of the late Francisco Franco may’ve gone too far:
Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon, who is known for pursuing alleged human rights abuses worldwide, is facing a court investigation on charges of professional misconduct…

The Supreme Court has agreed to probe a complaint lodged by the tiny far-right trade union Manos Limpias, which accuses Garzon of having investigated the alleged human rights violations of Spain's 1939-75 dictator Francisco Franco without having the authority to do so.
Image- BBC News
Online Sources- Monsters & Critics, Typically Spanish, The Telegraph, The Latin Americanist

Daily Headlines: June 10, 2009

* Guatemala: The Council on Hemispheric Affairs looks at the difficulties faced by Guatemala’s indigenous peoples and how the government is accused of neglecting their needs.

* U.S.: A federal judge dismissed the case against four illegal immigrants supposedly of Mexican background since they had their constitutional rights violated in a 2007 raid.

* Cuba: Proceedings for the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried on U.S. soil began yesterday.

* Uruguay: IPS examines Uruguay’s labor union representing domestic workers as well as the discrimination they have to put up with on a daily basis.

Image- (“A Guatemalan indigenous victim of the armed conflict (1960-1996) gesture during a protest in front of the congress on February 21, 2008 in Guatemala City. The demonstrators demand the congress to declare the February 25 as the national dignity day of the victims of the armed conflict.”)
Online Sources- IPS, Council on Hemispheric Affairs, AP, BBC News

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Today’s Video: It’s smooth. It’s refreshing. It’s Chicha Libre.

We continue our look this week at this summer’s free concerts in New York City with a great band that hails from Brooklyn: Chicha Libre.

Presumably named after the Peruvian fermented drink, Chicha Libre mixes several different styles from surf music to traditional Andean sounds. The group will be performing on August 22nd at Roosevelt Island (located in the East River between Queens and midtown Manhattan in case you’re a neophyte) so definitely go and check them out.

Here’s the music video for “Indian Summer”, a song that was on their ¡Sonido Amazonico! album released last year:

  • Monday - Los Amigos Invisibles and Aterciopelados
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Roosevelt Live, Wikipedia, YouTube

India looks to Brazil for outsourcing

Mention the word “outsourcing” and the image that usually comes to mind is that of customer service reps in India. But with that country’s increasing economic growth and clout on the world stage Indian companies have begun looking elsewhere. Enter Brazil into the fray.

According to a recent assessment by global management consulting firm AT Kearney's Global Services Location Index, Brazil has become an increasingly attractive outsourcing destination. In the case of India’s second largest software exporter, Brazil’s closeness to the U.S market forced the firm to expand operations there. “Some of our US customers asked for a centre in Brazil, as the country falls in the same time zone,” said one exec at Infosys Technologies who added that the move would generate at least 100 jobs.

Aside from proximity to the U.S., there are other factors that set Brazil apart in the global market according to a senior official with Stefanini IT Solutions:
(Antonio) Moreira does promote Brazil as a place with a lower turnover rate than India, and as a place where IT professionals have a high degree of technical skills and business savvy. Stefanini, for example, experiences an average of 15 percent employee turnover, Moreira says…

Brazil also has what Moreira calls a "western" business culture, including a large financial and banking industry footprint. This means the Brazil IT workforce includes a great many mainframe programmers as well…

"Brazilians are more proactive," Moreria says. "If they see they are not able to meet the deadline, they do something. They won't wait until the last minute and then say they can't meet the deadline."
Not all is well with Brazil and outsourcing, however. The authors of the "Black Book of Outsourcing" cited Rio de Janeiro as one of the ten riskiest locales for outsourcing. (The top spot was taken by another South American city: Bogota, Colombia).

(Hat tip:

Image-Expat American Living in Brazil (Brazilian call center)
Online Sources- InformationWeek, InfoWorld, Daily Times, MarketWatch,

Controversy over book award to ex-dictator’s relative

The granddaughter of former Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo has found herself in the middle of a controversy after being honored with a local literature award.

Aida Trujillo Ricart, received the Manuel de Jesus Galvan Novel Prize from the Dominican government for her book “A la sombra de mi abuelo” (In the shadow of my grandfather). The decision has been seen unfavorably by some members of the Dominican Republic’s literary community. For instance, historian Franklin Franco blasted the jury and accused them of not reading the book or being paid off by the book’s Colombian publisher.

Members of the jury have defended their choice of Ricart’s book; “of the books that we received (Ricart’s) was the best” said Mexican writer Jorge Volpi.

For her part, Ricart defended her award in this interview with a local daily:
I can assure you that my critics have not read my book or else they would not disparage it! In fact, I’ve received several criticisms from my family and from trujillistas for writing the book.
Rafael Trujillo ruled the Caribbean nation with an iron hand from 1930 until his assassination in 1961. His conservative rule was infamous for backing a "whitening” of Dominican culture via the country’s immigration policies and by promoting Spanish customs. Under his rule, civil liberties were strongly curbed, political opponents were repressed, and he ran an oligarchic state.

Image- Hoy Digital
Online Sources- El Universal, Listin Diario, LAHT

Richardson to the rescue in North Korea?

Could New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson be sent to North Korea to broker a deal to free two jailed journalists? It’s a very realistic possibility that he may help in the release of Current TV reporters Euna Lee and Laura Ling who were sentenced to twelve years in prison after being accused of spying.

In an interview on NBC yesterday, the ex-presidential candidate admitted that “talk of envoy is premature” though the White House “has reached out to me for advice and I've spoken with the families":

Richardson is no novice to diplomacy in North Korea after having previously served as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. He also acted as an unofficial envoy to the Asian country and was able to secure the release years ago of several U.S. citizens held in Pyongyang.

Aside from Richardson, there is speculation that former Vice President Al Gore could be sent to North Korea. Despite being the founder of Current TV, Gore has been strangely silent over the ordeal experienced by Lee and Ling.

Online Sources- Huffington Post, AP, MSNBC, New York Daily News, Politics Daily

Peru solidarity march held in Washington

As the Peruanista blog noted, several protests have been held in the U.S. in solidarity with indigenous demonstrators in Peru. One march was held on Monday in Washington, D.C. days after violence erupted between the Peruvian army and civilians leaving dozens dead:

In the meantime, one of the indigenous protest leaders is seeking political asylum. Alberto Pizango has sought refuge in Nicaragua's embassy after the Peruvian government accused him of sedition, conspiracy and rebellion against him. A decision on Pizango’s asylum request is expected later today.

What are your thoughts on the situation in Peru? Let us know via your comments.

Online Sources- Peruanista, YouTube, Al Jazeera English, BBC News

Daily Headlines: June 9, 2009

* Brazil: In the latest development to the Air France Flight 447 accident, searchers found an additional seven bodies yesterday as well as a large chunk of the plane’s tail.

* Ecuador: President Rafael Correa urged his newly installed energy minister to pursue “a tougher line to all these (foreign oil) companies that still believe they can continue to abuse our country.”

* Mexico: The government gave the green light to the experimental planting of genetically modified corn as early as September.

* Cuba: Now it is official – Cuba’s government rejected a path to be readmitted to the Organization of American States.

Image- CBS News
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Bloomberg, MSNBC, Reuters

Monday, June 8, 2009

Today’s Video: Los Amigos Invisibles strike back

For the past two years, we’ve dedicated a pair of special entries to the myriad of extraordinary free summer concerts in New York City. Instead of doing a mega-post on the many great gigs over the next three months, we’re going to dedicate this week’s daily video series to pointing out some concerts that will definitely be worth it!

One of the gigs that we’re (or to be more accurate: me) looking forward to is a fantastic rock en Espãnol twin bill on July 10th. Personal favorites Los Amigos Invisibles and Aterciopelados will be up on stage in Prospect Park as part of the “Celebrate Brooklyn” series. The Venezuelan sextet is known for its funky, catchy music while the Colombian duo incorporates all sorts of sounds into their politically-charged tunes.

This Tuesday will see the release of the latest album by Los Amigos... entitled “Comercial”. One of the singles from that album is the very enjoyable and fun “Mentiras”:

Online Sources- YouTube, Celebrate Brooklyn, The Latin Americanist

World Watch: Standing tall

The twentieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests was commemorated last week.

Certainly one of the most iconic images was the man who stood in front of a line of tanks and blocked their progress. But who was “tank man” and whatever happened to him? These and other questions were tacked in this brilliant “Frontline” documentary from 2006. The famous event can be very briefly seen below:

(Hat tip: MetaFilter).

Online Sources- MetaFilter, PBS, YouTube, BBC News

Kaka to join Real Madrid (updated)

Update (10.00pm):
Real Madrid announced that they signed Kaka to a six-year deal including a record $90 million transfer fee. That is expected to be confirmed at a press conference on Tuesday formally introducing the Brazilian to the historic soccer side. (Link via Guardian UK).

Original Post:
Brazilian international Kaka is about to say “ciao” to Italy in a megabucks deal to be soon announced.

Though he told the Italian press that he would not leave AC Milan, the 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year has cleared a physical as part of a rumored transfer to Spain’s Real Madrid. A statement by the Brazilian Football Federation confirmed that a Real Madrid doctor examined the star midfielder in Recife where he’s training for Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier versus Paraguay.

The planned transfer fee for Kaka is would be a new record for a soccer player: an unprecedented $100 million. Yet it’s all part of a plan to rebuild Real Madrid into a super-expensive, superstar-filled squad:
Returning Real president Florentino Perez was previously in charge of the Spanish club from 2000 to 2006 - during the famous Galacticos era.

That resulted in the spending of large fees to bring the likes of Ronaldo (£23.2m), David Beckham (£24.5m), Luis Figo (£37m) and Zinedine Zidane (£45.6m) to the club.

Perez's comeback is on the back of a pledge to relaunch another Galacticos era, with Kaka one of his chief targets.
Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani said last week that any transfer of Kaka would be done for "solely economic" reasons. Galliani added that the club was losing about $99 million yearly and “we can't afford to miss out on $100 million."

Back in January, Kaka rejected a $100 million transfer to join fellow countryman Robinho to play for Manchester City.

Image- CNN
Online Sources- CNN, The Latin Americanist,, Guardian UK, BBC Sport, ESPN

Deaths mount in Peruvian Amazon

The conflict between Peru’s indigenous protestors and the government went from bad to worse over the weekend.

According to Canadian indigenous rights activist Ben Powless, approximately 100 natives were killed in violent clashes between domesticators and police. Powless- who is working alongside Peru’s main indigenous organization- said that the government is misleading the press by saying that there have at most nine protestors killed.

Both sides have blamed each other for the outbreak of violence resulting from weeks of protest in Peru’s Amazon region. Peruvian president Alan Garcia accused protestors of "barbarity" after 22 paramilitary troops were killed trying to breakup blockades on roads and oil pipelines. Garcia insinuated that "foreign forces” from Bolivia and Venezuela joined protesters in order to incite violence.

On the other hand, some locals have accused the army of heavy-handed actions by indiscriminately attacking unarmed protestors:
The country's security forces now have a firm grip on the area and are enforcing a curfew in the three main towns, (BBC’s Dan Collyns) says.

But local people say the measures are preventing them from looking for the dead.

Eyewitnesses reported having seen bodies burnt or dumped in a river.

"The police were shooting to kill, but that's not all, because they hid the dead," one man told the BBC.

"They took them to the ravine and threw them from the helicopter in plastic bags. There are also dead on the river banks. Up there beyond the hill, there are more, as if it were a common grave."
The conflict centers on Garcia’s orders to permit increased foreign investment in oil and gas ventures. Garcia claimed that it would allow Peru to advance economically yet protest leaders said that the move does little to improve the conditions of impoverished natives.

Image- AP (“In this picture released by Amazon Watch on June 6, 2009, police open fire on Indians blocking the road in Bagua Grande in Peru's northern province of Utcubamba, Friday, June 5, 2009.)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, AP, Al Jazeera English, BBC News,

Thousands mourn dead Haitian priest, activist

An estimated 3000 people gathered in Miami’s Little Haiti and paid their last respects to Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, a tireless immigrant rights activist.

Jean-Juste passed away last week at the age of 62 after decades of acting as “the spokesperson” for South Florida’s growing Haitian community. He was a strong advocate for immigrant rights ever since he founded the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami. He was also vocal in seeking justice in his homeland after he returned to Haiti in the 1990s to protest the coup against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. His outspokenness would land him in jail in 2005 though he was soon allowed to return to the U.S. due to health problems.

The struggle for just and fair immigration continues to this day for those Haitians seeking a better life in the U.S. Nevertheless, Jean-Juste was instrumental in organizing and leading Haitian refugees:
''It's not a question of which man is going to replace Jean-Juste; he played his role,'' said Bishop Thomas Wenski, who served as pastor at Notre Dame d'Haiti Catholic Church in Miami from 1984 to 1997. ``You have a community that is very diverse and is showing success in different areas, in business and also politics and civic life. Jean-Juste played a role for the time that he was in Miami: He laid a foundation''…

‘‘He was perhaps one of the original of what they would call the sidewalk diplomats," said Wenski, now head of the nine-county Orlando Diocese. "He was a community organizer and a community agitator, in the best sense of the word."
Image- South Florida Sun-Sentinel (The late Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste was jailed in Haiti on allegedly politically motivated charges).
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist,, Miami Herald, Miami New Times

Karen Olivo triumphs at Tonys

Karen Olivo won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for her role as Anita in the revival of “West Side Story”.

"I'm completely unprepared for this. ... I just want to dedicate this to everyone who has a dream," Olivo said in an emotional acceptance speech after receiving deserved acclamations from the 800+ Tony voters.

Olivo’s award was the only winner for “West Side Story” which got four nominations including one for Argentina’s Josefina Scaglione as Maria. The revival has been praised for incorporating more Spanish lines and lyrics to songs as well as taking a closer look at bigotry and racism.

Olivo took a gamble by leaving her leading role in the Tony-winning “In the Heights” for a supporting role in “West Side Story”. But as she observed in a March interview, the chance to play Anita was too good to pass up:
"[The decision] was more about the role itself. It’s an amazing and iconic part," adds Olivo, who’s of Dominican, Puerto Rican and Chinese descent.

"And it had more to do with the actual [show], which I have known and loved since I saw the movie when I was 5 or 6. It was the sort of thing I would want to do regardless of where I was in my career."
The evening was dominated by “Billy Elliot” which won ten Tonys though its composer Elton John was upset for best score.

Image- (Karen Olivo (right) received praise and honors at last night’s Tonys).
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, New York Daily News,, AP, The Ledger

Daily Headlines: June 8, 2009

* Mexico: Eighteen people were gunned down in a shootout between drug gangs and soldiers in Acapulco.

* Latin America: The number of swine flu cases has increased in Argentina, Uruguay, and Nicaragua while a second Chilean died from the virus.

* Puerto Rico: Thousands of protesters including union leaders and students marched in San Juan to demonstrate against massive layoffs planned by Governor Luis Fortuño.

* U.S.: At least ten people believed to be illegal immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras were killed when the van they were riding in crashed in Arizona.

Image- CNN (“Mexican soldiers hold rifles Saturday during a clash with organized-crime suspects in Acapulco.”)
Online Sources- Reuters, LAHT, AFP, UPI